Spoilers for Mass Effect 3 follow. Do not proceed if you haven't finished the game.
How do you end a trilogy long saga spanning over more than hundreds of hours with a myriad of choices and a galaxy wide threat? Well let's discuss how BioWare handled it and how I felt about the whole thing.
The Story so Far
I have already discussed my thought on this game in the series before. Mass Effect is a true form of an RPG with choices that weigh you down. With our galaxy under attack, the cope of our mission is huger and focused on the war against the Reapers.
I had already united the races across the galaxy, albeit some begrudgingly, and had completed all the main and side missions before heading off to face the threat of the Reapers. I had made sure that I my Paragon bar was full, bar some Renegade incidents (couldn't resist doling out some righteous justice 😁).
So I was all set for the GOOD ending.
Preparing for the Endgame
Having put off the final missions for a few months now, I was instantly sucked back in when I began the assault on the Cerberus's base. The Illusive Man, whose interests always seemed to serve humanity, was for some reason hell-bent to oppose me and my agenda to take down the Reapers.
Turns out that the his idea is to control the Reapers. Was he indoctrinated, controlled by the Reapers? His plan seems maniacal, almost illogical. The extremes to which he has gone to make his plan come to fruition makes him almost as bad as the Reapers themselves. I shudder to think what he would do with such power in the name of righteousness.
The fight against Kai Leng was a bit challenging and as with games of that era, involved prolonging the fight and wearing him down to stop him from regenerating his health. Took a few tries, but I did figure it out in the end.
Showdown on Earth
Then, it came down with the final battle against the Reapers on planet Earth, in none other than the city of London. It was strange to see such a familiar setting after hours in alien planets.
It is poetic that the battle started on Earth and ends there as well. Then there is the part, where I get to meet all my companions from the entire series and give them a final goodbye. It all felt so ominous and heart wrenching. I could sense the inevitable doom upon Shepard.
The Final Choices
After a bit of an annoying battle against banshees (god, I hate those creatures and their one shot kill attacks), I was able to make it to the Citadel for the finale. Having another showdown with the Illusive Man, it is now clear he was controlled by the Reapers, I make to activate the Citadel, assuming it is the Catalyst to the Crucible, the weapon against the Reapers.
It is then that I am lifted to the Citadel's pinnacle, and meet a childlike AI that declares itself to be the Catalyst. It is time to make a choice...
I can choose to:
- Control the Reapers and thereby, bring order to the galaxy (the Illusive Man seemed to have it right),
- Destroy the Reapers and wipe out all synthetic life across the galaxy, including EDI.
- Synthesis: Merge the organics and synthetic life together, but in the process destroy the Mass Effect relays.
- No choice: The Reapers end up destroying the galaxy and resetting the cycle.
It took me some time to make the right choice, but I reasoned that destroying life, even if it is synthetic is not right, considering what my relationship with Legion and EDI and what I learnt of the history of the geth. The only one where there is a chance Shepard survives, but again at what cost?
Control also did not seem right. Even with Shepard at the head, it was making an entire species submissive to the whims of one mind.
Synthesis seemed to be just right, with the organics and synthetics sharing a DNA. Now they all share a common strand. Perhaps, in that case, the supposed inevitable war between the creators and its creations would not come to be.
It has been a week since I finished Mass Effect 3. When it came to the ending, I did have to do some research to make the right choice. In the end, I did not expect that the fate of the entire universe would come down to four choices.
But to find that Shepard has to sacrifice herself in all cases, again not counting the case where she destroys an entire race of synthetics, I decided that merging organic and synthetics was the more rightful ending. There is the debate and reasoning, a sense of choice in the end of the game, but it seems to boil down major issues down to its bare minimum.
Through the history of geth and quarians, we got to see the logical rise of the synthetic species, who seem to have been on the right side of justice. So, with the logic that creations will always annihilate its creators, the more appropriate question, which was unexamined, is why. In the end, it is not their differences as a species that is the cause the conflict, but what is right and that is something that the game failed to explore or address.
I understand the controversy with the ending from over 10 years ago and today, it still stands as we are in a world where synthetic life and AGI are a few decades, if not, years away. Are we ethically and morally prepared to accept another race of species into our lives? We can look at our creations, in games, movies, series and books, to run this thought experiment. In the end, reality is not so black and white, but a range of gray.
Even now, I reason my choice at the end of the game, and wonder at what it would be if faced in reality. Would merging species bring down conflict or just create a new form? In the game, with so many races spanning across the galaxy, there are bound to be more reasons for open conflict now that the threat of the Reapers is taken care of. With the announcement of Mass Effect 4, I am curious to see the direction BioWare takes with the future of the ME Universe and hope they do not take the easy way out, but give us the hard choices.
Originally published on January 28th, 2024.